'Patchy' performance by the Government's volunteer broker scheme

Only half of targets are met as jobseekers turn down placements

Inconsistency and missed targets will be on the agenda at a meeting early next month to discuss the progress of the volunteer brokerage scheme, a key part of the Government's £40.5m action plan to help the sector through the recession.

Conservation charity BTCV, which is delivering the £8m brokerage scheme with three charity partners, is expected to tell Department for Work and Pensions officials at the meeting that the project still faces serious difficulties.

Tom Flood, chief executive of the BTCV, told Third Sector he was committed to the programme, which aims to match 34,000 jobseekers in England with volunteering placements by March 2011.

"But because the brokerage programme was rushed through, there wasn't enough time to design it properly and the brokers have faced difficulties in running it," he said.

"In areas of high unemployment, the sector does not always have the capacity to create enough volunteering placements. In other areas, the jobseekers decide not to do placements."

Miles Sibley, development director at BTCV, said only about a quarter of jobseekers referred to the brokers by job centres finished volunteering placements. He said delivery in England was 'patchy' but the figures were rising every month and he expected the scheme to be a success.

Third Sector has also learned that the scheme is meeting only half of its monthly targets and that one of the four charity partners - BTCV, CSV, Volunteering England and v - is underperforming and might be forced to pull out or accept a reduced role.

All the charities denied that they might pull out. A spokeswoman for Volunteering England said the volunteer centres it represents would be able to take over in areas where other brokers were underperforming.

A DWP spokeswoman said it was unable to disclose figures about the scheme's targets. "The volunteering option for jobseekers offers good value for both individuals and for the wider community," she said.

Some volunteer managers are concerned that the scheme is a Government "numbers game". There is no minimum time jobseekers must complete as volunteers if they are to count towards the 34,000 target.

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